Last Updated: 03/17/15
A career in anesthesiology can be very exciting, fast-paced and stressful, as well as financially rewarding. Being an anesthesiologist means having several different duties, or roles on a day to day basis. The main role of an anesthesiologist is to provide pain relief and sedation to patients prior to, during and after a surgical operation, obstetric procedure or diagnostic procedure. These highly-skilled professionals must keep a close eye on the patient’s vital signs and consciousness throughout the procedure and also ensure the restoration of a stable condition in the patient immediately following the procedure.
Aside from management throughout the surgery, the anesthesiologist is also called upon for consultations in pain management in critical care medicine. Other duties or roles of anesthesiologists include the treatment of acute, long-standing pain associated with critical or terminal illness, cancer pain or severe injuries. They are also often responsible for the direct resuscitation in the care of patients experiencing cardiac or respiratory emergencies. This might include assisting in artificial ventilation and supervising post-anesthesia recovery. You can choose to practice a subspecialty of anesthesiology being namely pain medicine or critical care medicine. Or you can choose to focus more on the subspecialties of research or education.
Most anesthesiologists work in hospitals or outpatient surgical centers. Alternative career opportunities might be found in private practices, academic medical centers, urgent care centers, group practices or the military. As an anesthesiologist, you can expect to work long, hectic hours. A large majority of anesthesiologists report that they work at least 60 hours a week. Despite these long hours, a recent poll of anesthesiologists conducted by Medscape found that the majority reported being very happy in their lives. The same report showed that a large majority of anesthesiologists are married, a whopping 82% of those polled.
In order to become an anesthesiologist you must complete a four year premed program and pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). You must then complete a medical school program and then do a four year residency in anesthesiology. At some point during your residency you will have to take the certification exam given by the American Society of Anesthesiologists or the American Board of Anesthesiology before you can practice as a certified anesthesiologist.
If you decide to focus on one of the sub specialties mentioned in the previous section you will have to complete at least a year long fellowship in that subspecialty.
In 2010 Money Magazine included the career of anesthesiology in its list of the top 20 paying jobs in the country. According to the results of a 2010 physician compensation survey published in Modern Healthcare Journal (July 2010), the annual salary for anesthesiologists ranges from $331,000–$423,507. However, when starting fresh out of your residency, you might expect to make closer to $166,000 to $200,000 depending on where you obtain employment, as the salary fluctuates from state to state and the type of facility where you work. Those who work in private practice or have training in a subspecialty tend to make salaries on the higher end of the scale.
The career outlook for anesthesiology is very good as our growing population seems to always be in demand for medical professionals and anesthesiologists play a key role in the medical care of patients undergoing a wide range of procedures and critical illness and pain management needs. It is expected that job growth for anesthesiologists will increase 10% – 20% over the next decade. Also, as more research is done and technology is created, anesthesiologists will be able to perform more complex procedures and their role may expand.